Alanna V. Bodo
Below canopy evapotranspiration in four different variable retention harvesting treatments in a red pine plantation forest
Alanna V. Bodo, William C. Parker, Ken A. Elliott, M. Altaf Arain
Hydrological Processes, Volume 37, Issue 1
Variable retention harvest (VRH) is a silvicultural approach that retains differing proportions and patterns of canopy trees across a harvested area to emulate natural disturbance effects on stand structure and enhance the resilience of the regenerating stand to abiotic and biotic stresses. Four VRH treatments were applied to an 83-year-old red pine (Pinus resinosa Ait.) plantation forest in the Mixedwood Plains Ecozone of Canada that included 55% aggregate retention (55A), 55% dispersed retention (55D), 33% aggregate retention (33A), 33% dispersed retention (33D) and an unharvested control (CN). In the sixth growing season after harvest, tree stem sap flow and eddy covariance flux measurements were used to examine the impacts of VRH on the dominant components of total stand evapotranspiration (ET), i.e., canopy transpiration (TC) and water flux from the understory vegetation and soil (ETU) as well as understory and canopy water use efficiency (WUE). A positive relationship was found between harvest intensity and the growth of understory vegetation and ETU. The contribution of ETU to ET was higher in the dispersed compared to the aggregate VRH treatments. Canopy transpiration contributed 83% of ET in the CN plot and 58%, 55%, 30% and 23% in the 55D, 55A, 33A and 33D treatments, respectively. Overall, VRH treatments resulted in increased canopy WUE but little comparative effect on understory WUE. Our results suggest that the dispersed retention pattern led to higher ET and productivity than the aggregate pattern of the same retention level. Where carbon sequestration and climate change mitigation is the primary management objective, higher retention levels such as 55D might be used to favour stand level carbon storage while accepting slower rates of understory development. Our findings on the effects of VRH on productivity and WUE of the canopy and understory will help forest managers to better employ VRH as an option to meet multiple objectives and adapt forests to a warmer, more variable climate.
Abstract Background Variable Retention Harvesting (VRH) is a forest management practice applied to enhance forest growth, improve biodiversity, preserve ecosystem function and provide economic revenue from harvested timber. There are many different forms and compositions in which VRH is applied in forest ecosystems. In this study, the impacts of four different VRH treatments on transpiration were evaluated in an 83-year-old red pine (Pinus Pinus resinosa ) plantation forest in the Great Lakes region in Canada. These VRH treatments included 55% aggregated crown retention (55A), 55% dispersed crown retention (55D), 33% aggregated crown retention (33A), 33% dispersed crown retention (33D) and unharvested control (CN) plot. These VRH treatments were implemented in 1-ha plots in the winter of 2014, while sap flow measurements were conducted from 2018 to 2020. Results Study results showed that tree-level transpiration was highest among trees in the 55D treatment, followed by 33D, 55A, 33A and CN plots. We found that photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) and vapor pressure deficit (VPD) were major controls or drivers of transpiration in all VRH treatments. Our study suggests that dispersed or distributed retention of 55% basal area (55D) is the ideal forest management technique to enhance transpiration and forest growth. Conclusions This study will help researchers, forest managers and decision-makers to improve their understanding of water cycling in forest ecosystem and adopt the best forest management regimes to enhance forest growth, health and resiliency to climate change.
Scaling sap flux measurements to whole-tree water use or stand-level transpiration is often done using measurements conducted at a single point in the sapwood of the tree and has the potential to cause significant errors. Previous studies have shown that much of this uncertainty is related to (i) measurement of sapwood area and (ii) variations in sap flow at different depths within the tree sapwood.This study measured sap flux density at three depth intervals in the sapwood of 88-year-old red pine (Pinus resinosa) trees to more accurately estimate water-use at the tree- and stand-level in a plantation forest near Lake Erie in Southern Ontario, Canada. Results showed that most of the water transport (65%) occurred in the outermost sapwood, while only 26% and 9% of water was transported in the middle and innermost depths of sapwood, respectively.These results suggest that failing to consider radial variations in sap flux density within trees can lead to an overestimation of transpiration by as much as 81%, which may cause large uncertainties in water budgets at the ecosystem and catchment scale. This study will help to improve our understanding of water use dynamics and reduce uncertainties in sap flow measurements in the temperate pine forest ecosystems in the Great Lakes region and help in protecting these forests in the face of climate change.